Thousands of Germans gathered in the streets of Chemnitz to express outrage over a stabbing that left one German national (35) dead, and two others seriously injured.
Two men were taken into custody after the confrontation, a 23 year old Syrian man and a 22 year old Iraqi who are awaiting sentencing for manslaughter.
Protests began on Sunday and carried on to Monday as crowds estimated at around 5 000 people gathered in the city center. Protestors waved Bavarian and German flags and carried placards that read “stop the migrant flood” and chanted “Merkel has to go!”
Protests were met by around one thousand antifa and counter protestors who accused the opposing side of neo-nazism and xenophobia. Chemnitz police were called to put a barrier between the opposing groups but some violent scuffles broke out on both sides.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel called for an end to “vigilante justice”.
“We don’t tolerate such unlawful assemblies and the hounding of people who look different or have different origins and attempts to spread hatred on the streets,” said a statement by the Chancellor’s office.
Among the 5 000 protestors, members of the anti-immigration group Pegida could be found. Police are investigating several race based incidents where citizens were targeted and chased away based on their appearance and skin colour. Police also claim that several anti-migrant protestors signalled Nazi salutes, a practice banned in Germany.
The protests come at a time where approval of the chancellor is at a low. After allowing 1.3 million migrants into the nation, her approval ratings have dropped. Right-wing parties like Alternative for Germany (AfD) have sought to garner support on an anti-immigration ticket and claimed 90 seats in the Reichstag since the last election becoming the main opposition government to Merkel’s coalition.
Markus Frohnmaier, an AfD MP said in a tweet:“If the state is no longer to protect citizens then people take to the streets and protect themselves. It’s as simple as that! Today it’s a citizen’s duty to stop the lethal ‘knife migration’! It could have targeted your father, son or brother!”
Opposing parties have accused of the AfD and like-minded groups of using the murder for political gain and to spread anti-migrant sentiment.
“”There is a small Right-wing mob in our country that will take every opportunity to enact its violent fantasies of civil war-like conditions on our streets,” said Burkhard Lischka a member of the Social Democratic Party.
Protests are set to continue as even larger numbers of Germans take to the streets.
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